Showers of Blessing

-Written by Katy Key (with assistance from Stan)-

stewarts
At church with dear family friends

Today was shower day.  It would be embarrassing to describe how much time and energy are required to get me clean and how others are involved in making it happen.  The first time I showered after coming home, I cried so hard I don’t think the faucet was even necessary to get me wet.  You see, sitting (!) in the shower I’m more aware of my broken body than anywhere else!  Here I feel most vulnerable and weak.  Like a small child, I have very little control over my body.

In the shower, perhaps more than anywhere else, I realize how dependent I am on Stan and Anna, my therapists and nurses, and others around me.

A doctor recently told me that his patients are typically more afraid of becoming dependent on others than they are of death itself!  I can understand the logic in such reasoning. I can’t stand, eat, get dressed, walk, shower, go to the bathroom, or visit with a neighbor without assistance. Becoming dependent is perhaps the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do. There are moments when I say to myself, “I’d rather die!”

Why is dependence so debilitating?  What is it that we so deeply fear?

Jesus, the divine Son of God, said, “I can do nothing on my own… because I seek not my own will but the will of him who sent me” (John 5:30).  To be honest, most of my life I’ve skipped over that verse because it just didn’t make sense.  But lying helpless and paralyzed, I find those words speaking deep peace to my troubled soul.  Jesus was dependent on his Father, eternally dependent, daily dependent, gloriously dependent.  He did nothing without the Father’s help.

Realizing that Jesus lived in such constant dependence on his Father caused me to wonder if the independence that our culture values so highly has not been overrated.  Maybe being dependent on others is not such a bad thing after all!

Writing to the believers in Corinth, Paul describes a time in his life when everything seemed to be falling apart and nothing made sense.

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia.  For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead. (II Cor. 1:8-9.  Italics added).

I’m intrigued by the fact that most of us are going to leave this world in the same way we
entered it: completely dependent on someone else.  Apparently, there’s a lesson here that God wants us to learn.  No one gets into the kingdom of God through self-reliance!  To get in, we must become humble, dependent, and needy… like little children (Matt. 18:3).

As I have meditated on my needy condition I find myself thinking:  what made me ever imagine that I was in control of my life in the first place?  There was a time when I was healthy and my body was strong, when I pretended that I was in charge of my life and independent of others.

How foolish! Even then I was completely dependent on those around me: farmers, store
owners, architects, teachers, employers, etc.  My paralysis is only helping me to realize what has always been true!  I’m needy, broken, and can’t make it alone.  Becoming dependent is not the worst thing that can happen.  In fact, it may be the best!  It is those people who don’t realize how broken and needy they are who are most to be pitied (Rev. 3:17).

Now when I shower, I still feel helpless and vulnerable.  But the water washing over my body has turned into a shower of blessing!

Daring to Become Dependent
Receiving is an art.  It means allowing the other to become part of our lives. It means daring to become dependent on the other.  It asks for the inner freedom to say: “Without you I wouldn’t be who I am.”  Receiving with the heart is therefore a gesture of humility and love.  So many people have been deeply hurt because their gifts were not well received.  Let us be good receivers.  (Henri Nouwen).

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Best and Worst

-Written by Katy (and edited by Anna) –

Where to begin? “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” I would have to agree with Dickens when he states this paradox that life is rarely all good or all bad. This side of heaven the two seem to go together, at least this has been my experience. But while life can bring you deep pain and loss, I am so thankful that God never offers quick fixes or clichéd answers to our pain. In fact He has a lot to say about suffering and loss and allows us the freedom to express our own thoughts and feelings as well. Just read the book of Lamentations or any of the Psalms. Yet even in our suffering we know the promise “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”(Romans 8:28)

Easter is a blessed reminder that even in the worst of times, like the crucifixion, resurrection follows!

While I will never be able to call the bad things that happened to me, good, these experiences of loss and pain have not been void of comforts and even joys.

Allow me the privilege of sharing with you some of these comforts/joys.

  • When I found my heart grieving the loss of missing Christmas with my family while in the Neuro ICU; my joy was great as I sat in my living room on Easter watching children and grandchildren hunting for Easter baskets and celebrating together the empty tomb!
  • When I would feel abandoned by God or would question how a good God could allow such hard realities to filter through His hands, He would show up through the gentle hands and kind hearts of nurses, aides, therapists, friends and family.
  • While I certainly don’t enjoy not being able to walk I have never enjoyed more hugging my husband and daughter as they lift me to and from my wheelchair.
  • While my children live far from me (MI, IL and Germany). All of them have been able to come be with me off and on during this time. My oldest, Anna, who lives in Germany, came home for the first surgery on December 14, and is still with us, providing daily care for the last four months.
  • When I couldn’t provide meals for my family, others did!
  • While I grieve the loss of no longer being able to type with both hands, and the labor that is now involved in things that used to come easily like reading or writing (this blog for example); I am very grateful that my speech and memory have remained intact. And for dear friends who have provided such tools as an iPad to help make things a bit easier!
  • While pain is still a part of my journey, I am so grateful to report that the nausea is completely gone!
  • While this journey at times feels endless and is far from over, I am so thankful to be home and for the therapists who come weekly and help me continue to make progress one small step at a time.

While suffering is a very lonely experience, I was never alone as I felt the presence and love of so many of you through visits, flowers, cards, meals, texts, calls, gifts, etc.

Yes, we have been amply blessed by family,friends, neighbors and church family who have come alongside us during these months.  Including members of our little country church,Mt. Zion, whose pastors’ wife called the chaplain of the hospital to pray over the room where my surgery occurred. A pastor from our previous church in Albany, NY, flew down on our darkest day to be with Stan and family in the Neuro ICU waiting room. Another friend and his wife and two of their children drove from Chicago bringing their keyboard to hold church for us in rehab one Sunday morning. These are only a few of the stories we have to tell!

We have felt supported and strengthened by people God used to lift our heads and hearts during these ‘worst of times’ and for that I just want to say thank you! Please don’t stop praying for me as I continue the long road to recovery.

Songs in the night

-Written by Anna & Katy

“I tell you, we may preach 50,000 sermons to prove the Gospel, but we shall not prove it half so well as you will through singing in the night.” (Charles Spurgeon, “Songs in the Night”)

The Psalmist and book of Job both mention the fact that God gives ‘songs in the night’. (Psalm 42:8; Psalm 77:6; Job 35:10) Several times in the last few weeks Mom has shared with me songs or verses that the Lord has given her in the night. Even now that we are home nights are often when fatigue, anxiety and discouragement settle in. But God promises us ‘songs in the night.’

Weeks ago I created a playlist for Mom to listen to as she goes to sleep and often throughout the night as we rarely sleep straight through. While she is the first to admit she does not always feel like singing, she also admits her feelings and her welfare do not change certain realities or alter certain truths! We have been amazed through this whole experience how many times God has given us a song (usually in the darkness of night) to remind us of His unchanging character even when no two days are the same.

Mom asked me to share some of these songs with you. May they speak truth to each one of us and remind us that we serve a God who gives us songs in the night but also commands the sun to rise each morning and with each sunrise He brings new mercies! Great is His faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:22-23)

How can I keep from singing?

I lift my hands

All the way my Savior leads me

Let it be Jesus

When trials come

It is well